Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton extended his Formula 1 championship lead with victory at the Monaco Grand Prix, holding off Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for the majority of the race.
Verstappen finished second on track but a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release meant that he ended up fourth behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas.
Both Hamilton and Verstappen’s races were defined by an early pitstop cycle triggered by a safety car.
Charles Leclerc attempted an ambitious move on Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault at La Rasscasse, plucking the inside wall with his right-rear tyre. Leclerc picked up a puncture and the resulting debris caused the safety car.
Hamilton opted for medium tyres at the pitstop, while Bottas, Verstappen and Vettel chose the more durable hard tyres.
Verstappen managed to jump ahead of Bottas, who had narrowly fended off the Red Bull driver on the opening lap, but clattered into the side of the Mercedes in the pitlane. It was deemed as an unsafe release.
Managing the pace at the front of the field, Hamilton was able to overcome his heavily worn tyres to fend off Verstappen for over 60 laps of the 78 lap race – the Dutchman rarely dropping more than a second behind the Mercedes driver – in order to take victory.
Verstappen did lunge to the inside of the Mercedes driver with four laps remaining, however, he could only nudge Hamilton into the run-off area with a small overlap and front-wheel to rear-wheel contact.
With Verstappen demoted to fourth, Vettel inherited second place.
The Ferrari driver jumped Bottas after Mercedes was forced to pull it’s driver back into the pits for a second time during the safety car due to a slow puncture following the pitlane contact with Verstappen.
Bottas ended up recovering to third place, missing out on fastest lap after Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly – who finished in fifth – pinched the bonus point after making a late stop for soft rubber.
Carlos Sainz Jr was sixth for McLaren, ahead of the Toro Rosso duo of Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon.
All three, as well as Gasly, benefited by staying out during the early safety car. Daniel Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen, who ran as high as fifth and sixth early on, ended up ninth and 12th after losing significant time stuck behind Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo at mid-distance.
Leclerc was the race’s only retirement, after he was called to the garage missing the majority of his floor as a result of the puncture.